Approvals/requirements/procedures which must be obtained from authorities prior to the public presentation of films and/or plays [IRN36861.E]

No information on the approvals/requirements/procedures which must be obtained from authorities prior to the public presentation of plays could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. The information that follows relates to the approvals/requirements/procedures which must be obtained from authorities prior to the public presentation of films.

For information on the "regulations issued by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance [that] govern[ed] the various stages of film production" in 1993, please consult pages 98-99 of the Human Rights Watch report Guardians of Thought: Limits on Freedom of Expression in Iran, available in regional documentation centres (1993, 98)

Since 1993 other sources have reported that there are various stages required before approval is granted for public presentation of films (DPA 21 Sept. 2000; The Press 16 Jan. 1999; NPR 20 Aug. 1998). Reporting on 21 September 2000, DPA quoted the award-winning film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf:

"there are five different phases of censorship in Iran".
"First the script must be approved, then it must be clarified who the director will be, afterwards who the actors are, then it is still unclear whether you can finally make the film and even after the film is finished, it is unclear whether it will get permission for public screening," the veteran filmmaker said.
Displaying everyday human emotions on the screen, like a mother embracing her son and husbands and wives touching each other tenderly, is another problem in the Iranian cinema. Owing to religious restrictions in Islamic Iran women here are usually covered in long gowns and head scarves and are not allowed to touch strange men. ...
"Owing to the dress code and taboos between men and women, many human themes cannot be tackled and therefore most of the films are about children for whom there are naturally no such restrictions," said another filmmaker, who preferred to remain unnamed.
Despite the restrictions, Makhmalbaf dared to expose a love affair between a devoted revolutionary soldier and a nurse in the highly controversial 1991 film "Nights of Zayandeh River". This film and "Time of Love" are still banned after nine years. .

The Press reported on 16 January 1999:

There are numerous levels of censorship on film-making in Iran. Until recently, the first focused on the scripts. If you were cunning enough to gain official approval at this level, then permission was still needed for shooting, and again for screening at the government's Fajr Film Festival in Teheran. To release a film for general viewing throughout the country further permission is required, and finally, approval is needed to send your film abroad to festivals.

NPR reported on 20 August 1998 that

Before a director shoots one frame, his script must be cleared by the government, then the director and actors, even the technicians, undergo a thorough background check. Later the film is scrutinized during production and again when it's ready to be released.
These restrictions still apply, but Iranian directors say they are no longer enforced as rigorously. At this year's Teheran Film Festival, all of the films were aired uncut.

Sources have reported that restrictions have eased since the election of President Khatami (Chicago Tribune 9 Apr. 2001; AFP16 Jan. 2000; NPR 20 Aug. 1998). Country Reports 2000 reported:

The Government effectively censors Iranian-made films, since it is the main source of funding for domestic film producers. Those producers must submit scripts and film proposals to government officials in advance of funding approval. However, such government restrictions appear to have eased since the election of President Khatami (Feb. 2001).

The San Antonio Express reported that "approval can take several years if the subject matter is sensitive. Filmmakers scrupulously avoid the topic of Islam. Films that show too much material wealth are also likely to be banned" (8 July 1997).

In terms of content, restrictions are placed on the portrayal of women (Chicago Tribune 9 Apr. 2001), such as unveiled women, close-ups of women's faces, and physical contact with men (AFP 16 Jan. 2000; San Antonio Express 8 July 1997; AFP 27 Feb. 1997; Newsday 15 July 1997). Others reported that filmmakers avoid making films that can be viewed as anti-government (ibid.; San Antonio Express 8 July 1997), with one commenting that "directors long ago abandoned subtle, allegorical attempts to criticize the government. 'The board of censors is too clever about that,' explained director Mehrjui" (ibid.). Writing prior to the election of Khatami, Newsday reported:

Censorship has become more heavy-handed in the last four years, with government officials refusing to grant permission for more serious films, cutting entire scenes out of others, changing names and dialogue, removing characters - and not infrequently, banning controversial films outright.
"People in the world now are looking for Islamic and humanitarian values in our films," said Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mir Salim. To that end, Salim set out a list of unbreakable rules for filmmakers during a meeting in 1996, including the following: Movies may not show an unveiled woman or the "curves" of her body or a woman running or wearing makeup. A villain may not have a name from the Koran such as Muhammad or Hussein or Ali; instead, villains should have old Iranian names such as Houshang and Kambiz. Heroes, by contrast, may not wear bow ties or neckties, both of which are symbols of the decadent West. Families may not argue. Unrelated men and women may not touch or kiss.
That's just the beginning. Singing and dancing by women are forbidden and lingering eye contact between men and women is discouraged. A religious person may not be a villain, and members of the armed forces may not be portrayed in untidy clothes or behaving in an unseemly or unjust manner. Unhappy endings are discouraged as well (15 July 1997).

The Chicago Tribune reported on 9 April 2001 that

In Iran, the clash between modernity and tradition has sparked a vigorous debate, leading the Ministry of Culture to regularly censor films. Matters of religious tradition cannot be questioned, and only recently have the thoughts and feelings of women found their way onto the screen. Certain representations, particularly of women regarding dress or the suggestion of sexuality, are severely restricted.

One filmmaker stated that while his film was not banned, it was restricted to being shown in a small theatre in a poor part of Tehran and a promotional poster that displayed a women riding a bicycle was prohibited (ibid.). The filmmaker commented: "The government is smart ... Rather than banning it outright, they showed it in a way that hardly anyone would see it" (ibid.). In 1999, Newsday commented: "Today, virtually all the serious directors who want their movies to reach the theaters have learned to censor themselves, by choosing safe subjects, keeping their characters well within the bounds of Islamic rules, and not bucking the regime" (15 July 1997).

In 1997, sources reported that some filmmakers had been barred from making further films (The Christian Science Monitor 28 Aug. 1997; Newsday 15 July 1997; The Toronto Star 24 May 1997). Foreign films were also subject to censorship or banned (The Toronto Star 24 May 1997; The Guardian 13 Nov. 1998), although AFP reported in January 2000 that "foreign films that show unveiled women can be seen" (16 Jan. 2000).

In 1997, however, AFP reported an "unauthorised screening of an internationally-acclaimed Iranian movie" at a Tehran university for three consecutive nights (28 Oct. 1997). A local newspaper had claimed that the director had complained to authorities at the culture ministry about violations of his intellectual property rights (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 16 January 2000. "Iran Seeks New Definition of Women's Role - in the Movies." (NEXIS)

_____. 28 October 1997. "Illegal Screening Sparks Calls for Copyright Regulations in Iran." (NEXIS)

_____. 27 February 1997. Kianouche Dorranie. "Film Makers in Tehran Call for More Realistic Portrayals of Women." (NEXIS)

Chicago Tribune. 9 April 2001. Michael Vari. "Filmmaker Exposes Iranian Women's World to World at Large." (NEXIS)

The Christian Science Monitor [Boston]. 28 August 1997. Marshall Inwerson. "Inspired by Limits: A Filmmaker's Art." (NEXIS)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000. 2001. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 26 Apr. 2001]

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 21 September 2000. Farshid Motahari. "Iran Celebrates 100 Years of Cinema." (NEXIS)

The Guardian [London]. 13 November 1998. Geneive Abdo. "Iranian Film Comes Through the Big Chill of Hardline Years; Cinema is Daring to Tackle Subjects Off Limits in Other Media." (NEXIS)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) 1993. Guardians of Thought: Limits on Freedom of Expression in Iran. New York: Human Rights Watch


National Public Radio (NPR). 20 August 1998. Eric Weiner. "Iran Relaxing Restrictions." (NEXIS)

Newsday [New York, N.Y.]. 15 July 1997. Nicholas Goldberg. "An Unveiled Threat/Iranian Filmmakers Run a Gauntlet of Capricious Censors." (NEXIS)

The Press. 16 January 1999. Petrovic Hans, Yazdani Shahin. "Observing From the Outside Looking In." (NEXIS)

San Antonio Express. 8 July 1997. "Iran Films Veiled in Subtlety." (NEXIS)

The Toronto Star. 24 May 1997. Martin Regg Cohn. "Playing Iran's Censorship Game..." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases



One non-documentary source contacted did not provide information on the requested subject.